Monday, October 25, 2010
Yesterday our congregation was blessed to have one of the Teen Challenge choirs sing for us during worship. Between 15 and 20 men—they weren’t teens—came to Chain of Lakes to sing and to share personal testimonies during worship about their encounters with addiction.
Teen Challenge is a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program. The participants are all ages and all genders. The program is tightly structured, faith-based and residential. Teen Challenge serves people whom much of society has given up. Some of the participants who spoke at Chain of Lakes yesterday had been to prison multiple times. In some cases participants had the option of going to Teen Challenge or going to jail for a lengthy sentence.
The guys who sang for us were all dressed in white shirts and ties. They were respectful, courteous and thankful for the opportunity to sing at Chain of Lakes.
As these guys sang and shared their testimony I thought that they would be the people for whom Jesus has a special place in his heart. These guys had been beaten down by society; they had made choices that had gotten them into serious trouble. They were not innocent, but they deserved another chance. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jesus would give them another chance.
As these guys sang and shared their testimony I also thought that these are the people who don’t participate in church. They are a tough group to reach—it takes an extraordinary effort to reach them. Often we in the church know about folks who are suffering from addictions, but we don’t persevere in connecting them to our faith community.
I think Jesus would persevere. He calls us in the church to be relentless to reach the people whom we in the church often label as unreachable.
At the conclusion of worship yesterday I had the guys from Teen Challenge raise their hands towards us at Chain of Lakes; I had the people from Chain of Lakes raise their hands towards the guys from Teen Challenge. Then I asked everyone to repeat the Aaronic blessing:
“The Lord Bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
This was one of my best moments of the week. The guys from Teen Challenge were blessing us; we were blessing them. It was a service of blessing where everyone's hearts were opened to the movement of the Spirit.
Thank God for Teen Challenge!! They are doing the work that we in the church need to persevere in doing.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Last winter I visited Val Owens in her home in Anoka. She openly shared her story of living with an alcoholic husband and two alcoholic sons. Through her own participation in Al-Anon she found peace. Val has a special interest in Recovery ministry. Last May she helped organize Recovery Sunday at Chain of Lakes. That was a moving worship service where speakers shared their story of recovery from addictions. At the end of our visit last winter, Val told me that if we ever wanted to start an Al-Anon group she would be willing to do that. Tomorrow night is the first night for Al-Anon. The group will be meeting every Thursday night at the Lovell Office. If you are close to someone who has an addiction or if you suffer from co-dependency, I strongly encourage you to come to Al-Anon. Please keep this ministry in your prayers and also give a special thanks to Val for starting this group.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Last week two folks from Chain of Lakes Church and I attended the Leadership Institute in Kansas City that was put on by United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR). COR is the largest Methodist congregation in the United States. The church started in 1990 and today has approximately 14,000 members.
This is the fourth time I’ve attended Leadership Institute, and the first time I’ve brought people from the church I serve. At Leadership Institute COR literally opens up their church for outsiders to observe. Through large group presentations and workshops led by people at the church, we participants can learn almost anything we want to know about how COR does church.
I brought back too many ideas to share in a short blog, but let me share a few. In a workshop called, “CATCH: Attracting and Connecting Visitors” (and who doesn’t want to attract and connect visitors??) the leader encouraged every church to be clear about three questions. The questions are 1) Why do people need Jesus Christ; 2) Why do people need the church; 3) Why do people need this particular church. These are simple questions, but how a congregation answers these questions will help determine the character of the church’s ministry.
I was especially touched by a video that was shared by Sue Nilson Kibby who works at Ginghamsburg Methodist Church in Ohio. She had a video crew ask people the dreams for their lives. After the person shared their dreams, the person was asked what specific step he or she is taking to live out their dreams. Everyone interviewed answered the question by basically saying “nothing.” How sad it was to see people living with unfulfilled dreams. Seeing that video re-ignited my desire to help people to fulfill their dreams in their life. I’m going to share a sermon series later this month called, “Fulfilling God’s dreams.”
Steve Hawn from Hallmark gave a talk on the strategic decisions that Hallmark has made to change its company. Their research has revealed that people now spend an average of 18 hours a week on the Internet compared to three hours a week a few years ago. He said that this time has to come from other activities that people previously did. Their research showed that people spend less time in retail stores and less time in church.
Though this is disturbing, Hallmark is taking this change of environment to change its strategy. One of the objectives at Hallmark is “staying relevant in a changing world.” Three important steps towards change that he mentioned are 1) Establish a sense of urgency; 2) Rally people around the vision; 3) Create short-term wins. These steps are taken from John Kotter’s book “Leading Change.”
At the end of the conference we were encouraged to write on a sticky note three ideas that we want to implement in our local congregations. The above picture has the sticky notes that one group shared. My three ideas are:
1) Deepen community among young adults at Chain of Lakes
2) Give our Christmas Eve offering to an outside organization
3) Call people servants instead of volunteers.
We’ll see how the Spirit works at Chain of Lakes with these ideas!
Next year I’m hoping that we take a group of ten to Leadership Institute. I highly recommend the conference.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Today two volunteers (Val Owens & Gary Wassam) and I drove to Kansas City to attend the Leadership Institute that United Methodist Church of the Resurrection provides.
Church of the Resurrection (COR) is the largest Methodist Church in the United States. For the past ten years they open up their church through this Leadership Institute. Participants can learn everything we want to about what COR is doing. Tonight the three of us attended a 5th grade mid week ministry called “Wile 1’s Ministry.” Approximately 125 5th graders gathered for mixers, games, big group presentation, and small groups.
This is the fourth time I’ve attended Leadership Institute. I’m especially excited that two others from Chain of Lakes have joined me. I’m doing my best at not attending any Continuing Education events without going with others at Chain of Lakes. Val, Gary and I have already talked more about with the church with each other (eight hour car ride!) than we normally do in a month. The conversation and fellowship that we’ve already experienced was already worth the journey.
For more information on Leadership Institute go to: cor.org
I’ll be taking a blog break until next week.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Yesterday we shared the first video during worship at Chain of Lakes Church. On Tuesday night another person from Chain of Lakes and I went to the local Cub Food. We had a video camera and microphone. As people walked in the parking lot I asked them if they would like to participate in an interview. I told them we were from a church and were doing interviews of people. I gave every person who agreed to do an interview my business card.
In a hour I talked to ten people. I started out by asking each person the following question, “If Jesus came up to you and said you could ask him any question about baptism, what question would you ask?” I went on to ask each person if they had been baptized, what they remembered about their baptism, does the church do a good job of teaching about baptism, and what baptism means to them. When the interview was done I asked each person if we could use the footage in our worship service. Every person said yes.
We ended up with thirty minutes of footage. The final video and the sermon I gave can be seen at: http://chainoflakes.blip.tv/file/4199495/
I’ve always wanted to use video in worship and expect that we’ll use more of it in the future.
Over time I fully expect that we will get pushback about using videos in worship. We Presbyterians do a poor job of using visual projection in worship. I would guess that some Presbyterian churches still don’t have a screen in their sanctuary. Off the top of my head I can’t remember ever watching a video in a Presbyterian worship service that the local congregation produced.
The question for me is “Are we willing to use the tools of the culture to advance the mission and ministry of our congregations?” My answer is an overwhelming , “Yes!”
I’m not in love with videos, or power point, or sound systems, or organs, or drums, or electric pianos, or any other piece of equipment that is in a church building or sanctuary. For me they are tools that lead to a more important purpose. If I thought we could advance our mission and ministry by doing jumping jacks in worship, I would do jumping jacks in worship. (For those of you who might have kvetched on that last sentence, don’t worry—I don’t think doing jumping jacks in worship would advance our mission and ministry.)
It’s ironic to me that we Presbyterians—who are so committed to transforming the world—are so unwilling to use the tools in our culture to advance our purpose.
Every piece of equipment in a church building was at one time something new. When Jesus lived he didn’t have a pulpit or a sound system, or an organ, or a piano, or cross, or a baptismal font, or a pew, or a bulletin, or videos. Everything listed in the preceding sentence was introduced into the church in order to advance the mission and ministry of the church at that time.
I believe that the mistake we Presbyterians have made is we have stopped adapting to our culture. And we forget that when we adapt we do it to serve a larger end.